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Type VI Secretion Systems (T6SSs) are widespread in bacteria and can dictate the development and organisation of polymicrobial ecosystems by mediating contact dependent killing. In Neisseria species, including Neisseria cinerea a commensal of the human respiratory tract, interbacterial contacts are mediated by Type four pili (Tfp) which promote formation of aggregates and govern the spatial dynamics of growing Neisseria microcolonies. Here, we show that N. cinerea expresses a plasmid-encoded T6SS that is active and can limit growth of related pathogens. We explored the impact of Tfp on N. cinerea T6SS-dependent killing within a colony and show that pilus expression by a prey strain enhances susceptibility to T6SS compared to a non-piliated prey, by preventing segregation from a T6SS-wielding attacker. Our findings have important implications for understanding how spatial constraints during contact-dependent antagonism can shape the evolution of microbial communities.

Original publication

DOI

10.7554/eLife.63755

Type

Journal article

Journal

Elife

Publication Date

07/07/2021

Volume

10

Keywords

Neisseria cinerea, Neisseria meningitidis, T6SS, Type IV pili, infectious disease, microbiology